An agent with a difference

22nd February 2017

Maddisons Residential is a multi-award winning Tunbridge Wells based Estate Agency selling properties throughout Kent and Sussex.

In January 2013, Deborah Richards, tired with an industry that she felt was lackluster in the quality of service that it delivered, decided to develop her own brand of estate agency. It was a bold move to say the least, as she didn’t even have one property to sell and had no experience in the business.

Deborah worked from home initially until the growth of the business meant that more space was needed. Deborah initially rented an office on the Lower Pantiles, before moving to her beautiful new premises on the main colonnade of The Pantiles on January 19th.

We asked Annie Dixon from Writing and Blogging to find out more about a woman who has taken the world of Estate Agency by storm and literally turned it on its head in the way that she approaches selling houses.

Can you tell us about yourself?

I live in central Tunbridge Wells, a town that has been my place of residence for the last 15 years. I just love it here, it’s home! There’s a buzz about the place, a sense of community and it’s close to London where I previously lived. I grew up in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. I’m married to James and have 3 children, plus my dog Brea, a black Cockapoo also shares our home and comes to work with me.

I have two 1st Class Honours Degrees in English Literature and Business Studies. Upon leaving university, I established myself in the banking world before going to work at Coutts, which had a highly regulated environment and was a company that provided a market-leading example of how your clients should be treated.

When did you establish Maddisons Residential?

I set it up in January 2013, having left Coutts three months earlier. I ran the business from home to start with.

What experience did you have of Estate Agency?

Actually, none, if you are talking about working for an Estate Agent! However, I had been involved with property for 25 years, buying it, renovating it and then selling it on. I have a real love for houses, but was frustrated with the way estate agents treated their clients.

I wanted to create perfection and wasn’t worried by all the regulatory requirements, as I had had a good grounding with Coutts. My friends thought it was madness, that I was insane, but I was just excited!

How did you come up with the name Maddisons Residential?

I had mulled over the name for ages. I didn’t want to call it Deborah Richards as I had a solid reputation in the banking world and needed to rebrand myself. Would you believe I was driving down London Road and passed a property with hoardings up and a sign reading Maddisons!

That was it! I liked the American connection as I think they do a lot of things right in the US regarding selling houses and their service levels are exemplary. However, I had to go with the double d so that I could get the website I wanted!

What was the first property you sold?

A delightful little house in Aylesbury, close to Maidstone. I had been chatting to a lady at The Wealden Times about my new business and within an hour, her boss called me back, asking me to sell her property. It took 10 weeks to sell and soon the owner of the property was recommending Maddisons to other people.

What made you set up your office in The Pantiles?

Initially, I worked from home but as I got busier, it became impractical. There was more and more paperwork and keys needed to be dropped off and I now had 1 staff member. I had met Caroline Pickering from Style My Home at a networking event, and we decided to share an office.

It was a great combination as Caroline has become more and more involved in my business, staging houses that were on my books. I now had a presence on the street.

Why are you moving?

I need to ensure financial stability for the business and the 5 staff that I now employ. The business is going from strength to strength, and we are doing 2 – 3 valuations per week with a high conversion rate. Larger premises are definitely needed and this will make us more visible and will enable more people to find us so that we can sell their properties.

Also, it will give me the opportunity to have properties on display, but not in the window as convention dictates. This will give vendors a sense of comfort that their properties will have visibility.

Who is designing your new offices?

I have a reputation for being very fussy, although I like to call it paying attention to detail and I have been there every step of the way. I really want to create the right atmosphere and I want the feel to be very different to most estate agents. I do feel many estate agents are still back in the 1980’s!

I’ve looked at hotels, cafes and restaurants for ideas and inspiration. Caroline helped me out with the sourcing of the various items, working within my strict brief! I’m delighted with the finished product.

What challenges do you think you will face in the future?

I think there is the “online” threat, although I think this will affect the weaker agents. The prices that Maddisons achieves for its properties and the service that we deliver, more than compensates for any savings in fees, meaning we actually represent great value.

I think for too long, sellers have had a one-fee option, with no qualification of the service that is delivered. There is a reason that retailers can choose to shop at Poundland, John Lewis or Louis Vuitton. They want choice. I would like to align us to the John Lewis proposition! So for me, the rise of the online agents is an opportunity.

Do you have any expansion plans?

I do want to increase the number of properties on my books. We tend to turn properties over relatively quickly and if they aren’t selling, we meet with the vendor to discuss options. I’m also moving into Lettings and will be expanding our Land and New Homes Division where we are working with Property Developers. This is very different and specialised.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love spending time with my family and friends and walking Brea. I enjoy badminton, horse riding, the cinema, the theatre and dining out. I’m very involved with the schools that my children go to and I’m an Ambassador for the ellenor charity. A dream outing for me is visiting a “model village” – I love property that much!